Loved it. Loved the laconic, post-apocalyptic cowboy language, the twists in the action, the way everything became murkier and more uncertain, and theLoved it. Loved the laconic, post-apocalyptic cowboy language, the twists in the action, the way everything became murkier and more uncertain, and the way in which both the heroes and villains became more complicated. ...more
Here's what I love best about Liz Williams: she is always more subtle and complicated than you think she's going to be. When I start one of her books,Here's what I love best about Liz Williams: she is always more subtle and complicated than you think she's going to be. When I start one of her books, I think 'oh, this is what kind of book this is'. But I'm almost always wrong. Her world-building is complicated and revealed slowly, so if you're the kind of reader who is put off by a dreamlike ambiguity, then Williams will probably frustrate you. If you're willing to trust that her puzzle will fit together in the end, then relax and enjoy. She's one of the smartest, wittiest, and most diverse writers working in the field, and this, though not her most challenging work, is well worth your time. ...more
Here's the thing about Bordertown: it's more than it appears on the surface. As a shared world project, it's a solid one - the premise is interestingHere's the thing about Bordertown: it's more than it appears on the surface. As a shared world project, it's a solid one - the premise is interesting (for new arrivals: Fairyland has returned, causing various calamities and upheavals, and creating a 'border' region between the two worlds, where neither human machines nor elven magic work reliably), the writers work well together, and the voices were fresh and compelling at the time. They still are, more or less, but that's not why we love it so much.
When I was young, we didn't have Youtube, much less anything like the "It gets better" project. Yeah, ok, we had zines and we had records, and sometimes you could travel to a bigger town and mingle with a larger group of freaks, but we didn't have a lot of older freaks to tell us the things we desperately needed to hear. In the Bordertown anthologies, the original writers - a mix of queer folk and musicians and former street kids and other assorted weirdos - found a way to reach us. They told us that sometimes running away is ok, depending, but that you still have to make a home out of wherever you end up - it's not enough to just survive, though survival comes first. They told us that it was great to be strange, and that we didn't have to outgrow it if we didn't want to, that we could go on to be weird adults and be proud and happy, if maybe totally broke as well. They told us that we had to take care of each other, and that the families we chose were as real and important as the ones we were born with. Most importantly, they told us that the million small acts of creativity and self-sufficiency that we practiced every day - making our own clothes, baking bread, growing food, making music, telling stories - were as vital and as magical as anything any Elfland could ever produce.
Bohemia is always changing and always the same, but like any other culture, it needs a certain amount of continuity. The Bordertown books gave us that sense of solidarity, and they still seem to - which is why you find them creased and bent all to hell, passed around from person to person to person, and why people will shell out as much as fifty bucks for an old paperback copy. They're a lifeline and a beacon and a map. Like the best books for young people, they show us how to navigate the route between childhood and adulthood and arrive in one piece. I hope they bring comfort to the strange - young and old - for many more years to come....more
Most totalitarian governments eventually figured out that the most efficient sort of mind control is the kind that is self enforced, and that self cenMost totalitarian governments eventually figured out that the most efficient sort of mind control is the kind that is self enforced, and that self censorship, carefully instilled, is the most effective way to control public discourse. A similar form of self policing occurs today, despite our free societies. Urban anonymity coupled with the internet allows us to only associate with the like-minded (as many other people have more gracefully pointed out already). No longer forced to congregate with random strangers, we can spend all of our time - virtual or otherwise - with people who share our affection for superhero costumes or radical politics or hardcore industrial music - while filtering out the vaguely distasteful mass of humanity streaming around us. It can sometimes feel as if the elements of urban life exist on separate planes, close but not quite touching.
But what if this schism was somehow made actual, either by ancient and unknown devices or by the force of our collective belief? And here we get into the heart of The City and The City. The perceptual contortions and self-censorship required by such a setting is just one of the deeply unsettling ideas Mieville explores. Or toys with, is maybe a better way to put it, because this is a surprisingly fast-paced read, full of thrills and shivery chills. The story’s big ideas are handled with a light touch, and never bog down the main plot - a gripping, gory murder mystery, fraught with conspiracies, corrupt government officials, and militant terrorist cells, and filled with the creeping, paranoid weight of constant surveillance. The heroes - two hard-boiled, expletive spouting, cynical police officers, straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel - make a strangely endearing counterpoint to the seriousness of the subject matter, providing a needed dash of wry humor.
I originally got an advance copy of this book way back in - I think - the winter of 2008. It looked intriguing, but I really wasn’t a big fan of Perdido Street Station, and I was a little reluctant to give this one a try. Now I’m sorry I waited so long. If you’ve had doubts about Mieville, set them aside and grab this book - now out in paperback, for your convenience! - and dive in. Prepare to stay up all night, be very late to work, and ignore your phone - I hardly ever stay up all night to finish a book anymore (getting old? maybe) but this I really couldn’t put down.
This book gives you exactly the same feeling of enchantment you get from listening to a really great storyteller, which is a very hard thing to capturThis book gives you exactly the same feeling of enchantment you get from listening to a really great storyteller, which is a very hard thing to capture in print. It's got all the right pauses and asides, the right amounts of humor and suspense and romance and intrigue, and an uplifting but uncheesy moral. Absolutely magical. ...more